A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Cambodia: Volunteering PACDOC Orphanage

Teaching English at a Non Government Organisation for disadvantaged children. PACDCO is a truly inspirational and wonderful place

semi-overcast 34 °C
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Background

PACDOC orphanage is located roughly 10kms outside of Siem Reap.
It is primarily run by a Mr Boran and his wife.
They provide shelter, food, education / skill learning, clothing (including uniforms for government school) and importantly love, attention and direction to roughly 44 children who's parents have either passed or simply cannot afford to look after them.
Though PACDOC does not receive funding, there are some philanthropic organisations such as ELIV from Taiwan who assist by building infrastructure and teaching, for them.
I initially found PACDOC through a (will reman nameless) volunteer placement organisation who wanted some serious $$$ to place me there.
After finding the orphanage Facebook page, I found that going through an Agency wasn't necessary and they were happy to accept teachers directly.
Without knowing too much about the volunteering industry it seems there are placement organisations out there making a big healthy profit from the goodwill of others hmmm....
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Teaching and Classes

When I arrived, there wasn't much in terms of tools, books or teaching aids.
On my first day i brought a soccer ball with me, and taught the kids the basic words and phrases used in a soccer game - in English.
Of course they already followed premier league and loved both Arsenal and Manchester with equal passion.
It was a great afternoon, and good way to break the ice with the class.
The next day we got into lessons. I didn't plan too much ahead, but rather have different activities in my - arsenal.
All the children I taught had a very high aptitude, and strong willingness to learn.
English is a high priority for the orphanage agenda. They want to enable these children to eventually work in industry or the growing tourism market where there will be plenty of opportunities for them.
One of the great things about PACDOC is that their children get the standard government education as all Cambodia children do, plus the extra English lessons from volunteers - these kids have a great advantage in the regard, despite their disposition.
It took a few days, but we gained a lot of momentum with new phrases and sentence structure.
I would recommend for anyone interested in volunteering in Siem Reap to go here! Contact me directly if you want to know more.
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New Friends and Culture Learning

There is a very broad range of ages at PACDOC - from toddlers to early 20's. The older ones drive the school age children to government school, assist with volunteers (and teach when volunteers are not there).
The older guys taught me a lot about Cambodia's wonderful culture and took me for a big night out on the town!
Teaching at PACDOC and bonding with the people there was a truly remarkable, humbling and inspiring experience that i will never forget.
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PACDOC photo album

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:17 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siem_reap cambodia_volunteering pacdoc teaching_english Comments (0)

Cambodia: Siem Reap and Ankor Temples

Beautiful cosmopolitan city, and fascinating temples that rival Egypt

sunny 35 °C
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Bus to Siem Reap, and playing choons

The bus from Battambang to Siem Reap was a joy compared to the last trip. Almost seamless!
At the rest stop I enjoyed the best banana/sticky rice ever!
Anything wrapped in vine leaves in Cambodia seems to be delicious!
The young chap sitting next to me seemed fascinated by my iPod!
I offered to play him some tunes which seemed to make his day!
I started mellow with some indie, but he seemed underwhelmed.
Then I amped it up with some drum and bass which got him screaming and air drumming.
He loved the drums - so I stayed with DnB, Jungle and a bit of Hip-Hop.
Whenever the tunes got too mellow (Erik B and Rakim was too mellow!) he said "no, more dum-dum-duhdum" - flailing his hands in the air.

Finally we arrived in Siem Reap, and I was greeted by Mr Phally, the tuk-tuk driver for me hotel.

Siem Reap City

Siem Reap has a really nice vibe. The old market area is the nicest(see: touristy) part, located on the river, with an awesome night market and heaps of great restaurants and bars.

I'll also say it is the most friendly place I have visited in all of my travels thus far.
I stayed at Neth Socheata hotel, which is outstanding in terms of location, service and facilities!

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Temples of Ankor

Mr Phally took me on a 2 day tour of the Ankor Temples. Ankor Wat is everything you've heard and then some.
There are so many temples in this area that you could spend a week here. The architecture and designs are incredible.
For me this was en-par with the sites of Egypt. Just amazing!
I recommend buying a guide book for the temples. They are money well spent as are the guided tours of Ankor Wat.
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My photos of the Ankor temples are here:
Ankor Temples Photo Album - Facebook public link

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:07 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temples siem_reap ankor_wat ankor_temples Comments (0)

Cambodia: Battambang

Lush green province with a nice town and wonderful temples and landscape

sunny 34 °C
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Bus to Battambang

The journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang was an interesting one.
One of the great services that Phnom Penh bus station has, is that they pick you up from your hostel or hotel, and take you there.
The driver then directs you to the bus.
The journey to Battambang should have taken 5 to 6 hours.
Sadly the air conditioning packed up about 2 hours into the journey, and we had to wait nearly 3 hours and a technician to come (via the next Battambang bus) to fix it.
Luckily we made it to a rest stop, and were able to sit and eat, drink coco-cola.
The bus eventually made it to Battambang town at around 8pm.

Battambang Town

I stayed at Asia hotel in an awesome single room with cable TV, nice bathroom for $12.
Battambang is small, and friendly - and very nice! There are plenty of nice places to eat.
The town seemed light on travellers though.
There are plenty of nice clothes shops, cafes, etc - but so very quiet at night.
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Battambang Province

I hired the services of the hotel's tuk-tuk driver for the day to take me on a tour of Batambang Province.
What an awesome day!
First we went to the Bamboo Train - which is exactly that.
Small motorised vehicles made of a bamboo platform on track wheels, that fly down the tracks for an untold distance.
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We only went about 15 kilometres to the next settlement, where I met a local family and shared tea and stories of our lives. The kids took me on a tour of their area including the rice press, and I also got a lesson in Khmer!
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After the Bamboo train we went up into the mountains to see various temples - all of which are outstanding, but individually tough walks to get to!
One of which sits next to the Killing Cave which was another murder site used by the Khmer Rouge.
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All in all it was a great trip to Battambang province and a marvelous area to explore!
Perhaps it is better that it is off the Banana Pancake trail to keep it's nice sleepy vibe.
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You can see the full set of my Phnom Penh and Battambang photos here:
Phnom Penh and Battambang (public Facebook link)

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:16 Archived in Cambodia Tagged battambang bus_journeys_cambodia Comments (0)

Cambodia: Phnom Penh

Beautiful welcoming city that lays bare a haunting ever present past.

sunny 36 °C
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Lately in the hospitals, the halfway homes and choking jails,
There's people on the mend again,
With hopes to carry on,
Come on people, keep your friends close,
Your enemies won't mater in the end

(Enemies/ Friends, Hope of the States)

Arriving

As the plane approached Phnom Penh from the wild west (Bangkok), you could only see water and submerged buildings.
As we drew closer it became apparent that the floods were not as bad as it seemed.
Most foreign nationals require a tourist visa to enter Cambodia.
I purchased an e-Visa before my arrival, however the visa itself did not arrive in time.
Armed only with a receipt I tried my luck at customs, rather than have to buy another one.
The easy going customs officer just sighed, took my thumb prints and stamped my passport.
Once you leave the airport, a swarm of tuk-tuk drivers swamp arrivers offering a lift.
I heard many warnings about driver scams where they take you to their mates' hotel coincidently with the same name as yours
I organised for my hostel (Nomads) to pick me up from Phnom Penh. i was greeted by the friendly lady and the hostel's own tuk-tuk driver.
The roads of Phnom Penh can be dusty, so travellers have your Khmer scarfs ready!

Exploration

Phnom Penh is a nice, vibrant and fairly welcoming city.
Though the activity is evenly spread.
Most nightlife and tourist hangouts are on the beautiful waterfront area of the Tonle Sap.
There is also a really nice night market on Friday and Saturdays.
There is also the Royal Palace and National Museum that were really interesting.

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S-11, a school before Khmer Rouge evacuated the city in 1975, because a centre for torture and interrogation during Khmer Rouge's 4 year horrific reign. The site is now a museum and site of remembrance for the atrocities that were committed there. The displays are very graphic and some of the torture beds, complete with tools of interrogation remain as chilling evidence. There are many photographic displays showing prisoners as they are processed, as well as tortures taking place.
There is a very sombre and chilling feel to the experience and it was difficult to hold back tears for the victims and families that were affected by Khmer Rouge.

Killing Fields

Located roughly 12 kms out of town the Killing Fields is the site where Khmer Rouge lead their people to die.
Soldiers dug enormous pits here, and lead their victims to the edge of the pits, where bodies already lay dead, sliced their necks with sharp palm leaves and pushed them into the pits.
There is an audio guide which leads you around the museum, explaining how the Khmer Rouge tricked their victims into thinking they were being relocated to better homes, before being lead to their death.
The grounds themselves still show evidence of the pits - from the moulded ground, to the bone and clothing fragments that are still emerging from the shifting soil.
There is a shrine with 17 floors full of human skulls found here, where to can light incense and pay your respects.
It is the single most harrowing thing I have experienced, yet also inspiring to know how quickly the Cambodian people have risen from their past and are boldly moving forward.

You have to hand it to Vietnam.
In 1979, having just evicted the American and Australian forces, and rebuilding their own nation - Ho Chi Minh decided that enough was enough, whilst the more equipped western world just looked on, and liberated Cambodia, forcing Khmer Rouge to retreat into the jungle.

On the whole....

Phnom Penh is a really vibrant, friendly, busy and thriving place.
Really enjoyed it.

You can find the full set of my Phnom Penh photos here:
Phnom Penh and Battambang (public Facebook link)

Posted by SkinnyFists 02:15 Archived in Cambodia Tagged phnom_penh killing_fields s_21 Comments (0)

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